At a press conference in Byron Bay this morning Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson, Detective Acting Superintendent Cameron Lindsay, Tweed/Byron Police District and Chief Executive Northern NSW Local Health District Wayne Jones, made an announcement about the upcoming Schoolies week in the town.
The trio spoke to the community from Apex Park asking school leavers who were planning to come to Byron Bay for their Schoolies celebration to postpone their plans.
Mayor Richardson said that at any other time the town would be preparing to welcome school leavers but these are extraordinary times. ‘Our message is that the beaches and the town will still be here when this COVID pandemic is over and we will welcome you then, with open arms.’
Mayor Richardson has asked teenagers to change their travel plans because COVID-19 will mean strict and severe restrictions on any sort of social gathering.
A very different experience in 2020
‘School leavers and their parents should know that anyone planning a trip to the Byron Shire for what would normally be Schoolies celebrations can expect a very different experience this year.’
Currently there are strict controls for people patronising hotels, there are no night clubs operating, and no large public gatherings and it’s expected these rules and restrictions on social gathering will still be in place in NSW in November and December this year.
‘Anyone coming to Byron Shire during Schoolies Week, or any time, is required to abide by all of the NSW Health orders including no gathering in groups larger than 20 people in public and private places,’ said Mayor Richardson.
‘With nightclubs closed, no dancing and hotels strictly enforcing COVID-19 protocols, our main health and safety concern is of house parties getting out of control in residential neighbourhoods through unmanaged holiday letting bookings.
A turn around from two weeks ago
It would appear Mayor Richardson has only recently changed his mind on the subject of schoolies. He was quoted in an article by Natassia Chrysanthos in the Sydney Morning Herald online on 28 August.
In her article Ms Chrysanthos said that Cr Richardson was still welcoming students to Byron, to rent accommodation with their friends and enjoy the beach and nightlife.
‘But it’s not business as usual, with large groups of friends partying together [or] great congregation in large groups up at the beach.’
We need the help of the NSW Premier
Now, the Mayor is calling on help from the state. ‘Council and local police cannot manage this alone – we need the help of the NSW Premier,’ said Mayor Richardson.
To protect the health and safety of residents in northern NSW, Byron Shire Council is requesting Premier Berejiklian treat holiday letting the same as other types of tourist accommodation and make it mandatory for each to have a COVID -19 Safety Plan with the same strict visitor and guest rules as hotels and hostels.
‘Anyone visiting our Shire is expected to respect our community,’ said Mayor Richardson. ‘We ask everyone to do their bit to keep us COVID safe. The ramifications for the entire state are potentially enormous should there be just one case of COVID-19 in our area as a result of uncontrolled house parties.’